I recently wrote a post entitled, “Confronting Racism and Racial Injustice” that answers a much larger question than I’ll be dealing with here. Hopefully, it will give you some insight into my heart and mind as you read this. I want to address the issue of the Confederate flag and how a Christian should respond.
Now I know some of you will immediately get all bent out of shape because it’s not technically the Confederate flag, but the battle flag of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Guess what? Who cares, we all know it as the Confederate flag today. Although a little history of how it came about may give us some insight. The actual Confederate flag became a major problem since it looked way too much like the American flag at the time so they began to design a new one with the confederate flag we know today in the corner and the rest of it completely white. Ironic, don’t ya think? Well the designer didn’t find any irony at all, he found it deliberately racist. William T. Thompson the designer said on April 23, 1863, “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”
Sounds like this flag is more about racism than “heritage” to me. To quote Fire Marshall Bill Burns – Let’s say, just for the sake of argument – that we should make sure to call it the battle flag instead of the confederate flag. Why in the world would the South pick for it’s sign of heritage, the battle flag over the CSA’s national flag? Maybe because they think there’s a battle to be won? And let’s say, just for the sake of argument that it’s about heritage…Riddle me this…Why did white supremacist groups, like the KKK and the White Citizen’s Council, also adopt the battle flag as a symbol for their racist fight to preserve segregation and white supremacy through the Jim Crow era and even today.
I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for us as Christians today to wise up to the fact this flag has such destructive and painful symbolism to a large amount of citizens in our country and brothers and sisters in Christ, within our churches. It’s as puzzling as the horrible theology that resulted from the original slave owners during the civil war and preceding it. They were blinded by racial hatred and possibly blinded more from the money they were making off of the slaves. So they began to justify it by twisting the scriptures to fit their own ends, namely their pocketbooks. Is that the type of heritage you want to identify with?
I’m sure many of you reading this right now aren’t happy or have some objections in your minds. Like with most things, I’ve seen and have been disgusted by much of the social media outrage over the taking down of the flag, that I want to address a few of the objections I’ve came across and hopefully answer them for you.
First, “It’s about heritage not racism.” I’m sorry, but this is stupid. Stop fooling yourselves. As Russell Moore says in his article, “The Confederate States of America was not simply about limited government and local autonomy; the Confederate States of America was constitutionally committed to the continuation, with protections of law, to a great evil. The moral enormity of the slavery question is one still viscerally felt today, especially by the descendants of those who were enslaved and persecuted.” If you’re a Christian, you understand better than anyone that your heritage is not something you need to hold on to for dear life. If you are a Christian with Southern heritage, you have infinitely more in common with a descendant of a slave from Africa than with a non-Christian, white, southerner. Christ has united us in Him. We’re no longer enemies of God or each other, but we are His children, we are family, we are the body of Christ. When you’re grasping for your heritage you’re reaching for the old man and stiff arming the new man and the people of God, Christ has united you with. Stop grasping after this heritage.
Second, “If they ban the flag, what will they ban next.” Seriously? Yep because we think the flag needs to go, let’s round up every Christian and put them in camps. Talk about a huge leap. Could that happen in the future of America? I pray it doesn’t, but it could, but because we stop flying a hateful symbol doesn’t lead us here.
Third, Patriotism. This one as a pastor makes me sick. Don’t get me wrong I love this country. I love the freedoms I have here. But, Christians, when did patriotism replace the gospel? It seems like every “patriotic” Christian out there is going to bat for “The stars and bars.” It sickens me because we have all this fervor for a cause I believe God is not in favor of, and the one cause he’s called us to be involved in, we’re not taking part in. Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations, and we’re like ok, Jesus but let me tell everyone first why America is great. And taking down a treasonous confederate flag that symbolizes racism might hurt my great America, so we can’t have that.
Which leads me to objection number 4, “It’s our right to fly the flag.” Praise God, for this country where we have a bill of rights. But, Christians, you know that this is not our home. We are but, strangers and pilgrims, and our focus is not here, but on Christ’s kingdom. The questions we should be asking isn’t, do I have the right to fly the flag, but is it wise to fly the flag? “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10:23. Do we have freedom? Yes. Is it wise? Profitable? Does it edify (or build up)? Absolutely Not. How would it affect your African-American brothers and sisters in Christ to see that flying at or in your home? It’s definitely not going to grow them in Christlikeness.
Lastly, “Well the flag means something else to me. It’s about history” Let me just say…I don’t really care what it means to you, when so many of your brothers and sisters in Christ it is a disgusting symbol of racism. The previous point is clear, that sometimes the greatest freedom that we have in Christ, is the freedom to say no, for the benefit and building up of a brother or sister in Christ. As I was reading Russell Moore’s article I went through some of the comments and this one stood out to me. “Growing up the confederate flag meant to me someone was gonna be killed. When I saw it I thought about lynchings and murder and fear. Not once in my little brown life has it ever meant anything to me about freedom. When I went to the south it meant ‘kids get in the car,’ it meant we were in the wrong part of town and we better leave because someone white was gonna hurt us. I was a child but thats all I ever knew it to mean. Not once did freedom cross my mind.”
I’ll end with this. What’s more important to you? Following your heritage or following the scriptures? If your heritage is one of racism, hate and slavery; maybe it’s time to forget what was in the past and create a new heritage. One that is more interested in seeing Christ’s kingdom advanced. So that for all eternity we can as a unified body of Christ, sing a new song, singing “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” – Revelation 5:9-10